The ones to watch

Anne McGrath tracks the careers of five rising stars at the Bar and finds out why their instructing solicitors rate them.

Jane Tracy Forster

13 King's Bench Walk

Called to the Bar: 1975

Professional achievements/associations:

Professional Negligence Bar Association; Personal Injury Bar Association; Employment Law Bar Association.

Areas of practice:

Clinical negligence; personal injury; employment law.

What others say about her:

Tracy Forster's “direct, no-nonsense approach” wins her a great deal of respect from plaintiff solicitors. Her “exceptional grasp of the technical issues” and analysis of the medical evidence benefit enormously from her medical background, which means she knows the field and the personalities involved extremely well.

Her forte is said to be in conference, where she gives clear advice, has fine judgement and displays an exceptional ability to simplify the most complex matters. She is particularly good with medical experts when explaining the presentation of evidence and “always gets the best out of them”.

Her team spirit and approachability mean she is widely valued, and this attitude combined with her common-sense approach and sense of humour make her “easy and good to work with”.

Regarded as a “robust and tough” advocate, she is able to read the situation well and does not back down from a point easily. In Miles v West Kent Health Authority – a complex case proving negligence during keyhole surgery, in which record damages of u470,000 were awarded – instructing solicitors were particularly impressed with these qualities and her thorough understanding of the issues involved.

With clients she appears firm but works exceptionally well with the layman, even making sense of apparent nonsense.

Angus McCullough

1 Crown Office Row

Called to the Bar: 1990

Professional achievements/associations: Supplementary Panel of Counsel to the Crown (Common Law); Professional Negligence Bar Association; Personal Injury Bar Association; UK Environmental Law Association.

Areas of practice:

Clinical negligence; environmental law; professional negligence; personal injury.

What others say about him:

McCollough is regarded by a number of leading clinical negligence solicitors as “a rising star” in this field and is seen to be following in his father's footsteps. He has none of the arrogance which being the son of Mr Justice McCollough might have afforded him, but instead shares his father's intellect and the ability to utilise it in straightforward terms, passing the acid test of relating well and displaying empathy with clients.

He is thoughtful and creative in his approach and “works all the angles, leaving no stone unturned”. His “clarity is superb” and he possesses “very sound judgement” and is particularly commended in cases where clients want to be brought to a decision.

He shows a disciplined and thorough approach. Instructing solicitors are particularly impressed with his immaculate preparation, where even in the smallest applications he will provide detailed skeletons, chronicles and notes.

Christina Lambert

6 Pump Court

Called to the Bar: 1988

Professional achievements/associations:

Professional Negligence Bar Association; Personal Injury Bar Association; Criminal Bar Association.

Areas of practice:

Clinical negligence; disciplinary tribunals.

What others say about her:

Lambert is said to be “keenly bright” with “a weight beyond her years”. She always has a good grasp of the medical issues and is “very incisive”, spotting early on what is, and what is not, going to win a case. Her approach is “focused, clear and logical” and she provides sensible, practical solutions very efficiently.

As a negotiator she is tough and “knows when to do a deal on things”, and as an advocate she is described as “lethal”. She is aware of the need to keep up these skills and her extensive experience in General Medical Council and General Dental Council work mark her out and provide another advocacy forum.

In Verdera v Shaw, a tetraplegic case in the Court of Appeal, the issue of causation involved analysis of over 100 medical articles. Lambert impressed the instructing solicitors by having all the facts at her fingertips and also with her meticulous analysis and superb handling of the issues.

She is said to be very good at working in a team, is seen as very approachable and “always makes herself available”, as well as being good at handling clients and putting particularly concerned doctors at their ease.

Paul Rees

1 Crown Office Row

Called to the Bar: 1980

Professional achievements/associations:

Treasury Junior Counsel (common law); Supplementary Panel 1991; Professional Negligence Bar Association; Technical and Construction Bar Association; London Common and Commercial Bar Association.

Areas of practice:

Medical and dental negligence; personal injury; professional negligence; environmental law; administrative law for the Government; disciplinary tribunals.

What others say about him:

Rees is described by one instructing solicitor as “the archetypal successful junior” with a “remarkable capacity for work” which he always manages to stay on top of. His reliability, both on performance and quality, is a key asset and gains him the confidence of clients – “if he says he will do something you can be assured it will be done”.

His approach is very considered and extremely thorough and his forte is undoubtedly his attention to detail. He is “meticulous, almost pedantic” and if he has read the papers “you can be rest assured that he will have sifted through all the detail, all the I's will be dotted and the T's crossed and every angle will have been covered masterfully”. His dedication and diligence are particularly remarked upon and his attention to detail can make him quite a hard task master for his solicitors.

In the larger cases where detail and complexity of issues are combined he particularly comes into his own. He is confidently and frequently used in such cases as a leading junior where otherwise a silk may have been instructed, his hard work and doggedness being reflected in the results he achieves. In one such case where the legal aid certificate was over 10 years old and the defendants said it would not succeed, Rees fought it and against all the odds they were awarded u2.5m in the days pre Wells v Wells – where such an award was unusual.

Another of his strengths is in the assessment of quantum, where his “outstanding grasp of numbers” is particularly valuable and “his figures are always based on reality not fantasy”.

As an advocate he is intelligent and measured, and is said to be a devastating cross-examiner who skilfully lulls his witnesses into a false sense of security before cutting them to pieces – “an art form which he continues to perform beautifully”.

Fiona Neale

3 Serjeants' Inn

Called to the Bar: 1981

Professional achievements/associations:

Professional Negligence Bar Association; Personal Injury Bar Association.

Areas of practice:

Clinical negligence.

What others say about her:

Very much of the no-nonsense, no-frills school, Neale has a very direct, authorative approach and is unafraid of putting her neck on the line. She can be “incredibly aggressive” and is very much a defendants' operator.

She has a reputation for being a tough and feisty advocate, and as one solicitor puts it, is a “worrier” in court who “keeps her gloves firmly on and moving”. It is said that her tenacity is difficult to match but much admired, and it has been remarked that “she will be hard to replace when she takes silk”.

Her strengths were particularly impressive in one cerebral palsy case which occurred in the 1960s. There was very little evidence to support a claim of negligence and medical records were almost non-existent. Neale's advice was to bring the claim. She did all the work preparing for the trial and against all the odds the case succeeded and damages in excess of u1m were awarded. This case highlights her “dedicated, structured approach”.

She is consistently admired for “going the extra mile”. Her advice is said to be always concise and to the point, and is rumoured to be very much admired by the National Health Service Litigation Authority.